As long as breastfeeding feels comfortable and your baby is getting plenty of breast milk, it doesn’t matter which position you prefer to use. This article describes some of the more popular breastfeeding positions for newborns and you can find more ideas for helping your baby attach to the breast comfortably in Latching Tips or see clips of mothers breastfeeding in Breastfeeding Videos.As long as breastfeeding feels comfortable and your baby is getting plenty of breast milk, it doesn't matter which position you prefer to use.Click To Tweet
Natural or laid-back breastfeeding
Baby mammals are hard-wired to breastfeed without any help—by using their reflexes and instinctive behaviours. By contrast, human babies can often seem helpless to overcome difficulties with latching to the breast. However, when a mother reclines with her baby on her tummy, human babies are often able to use their natural instincts to crawl to the breast and latch on (attach) comfortably, just like other baby mammals. This type of position is sometimes called natural breastfeeding or laid-back breastfeeding. Skin-to-skin contact in this position, while not essential, also has many benefits to help the process of self-latching. If you place your baby between your breasts as you semi-recline (lean back) into a chair, your body will take your baby’s weight and you will notice he starts to bob about searching for the nipple using all his senses. You can still guide him and help him to latch. Many mothers find this is a comfortable way to breastfeed.
Cross cradle hold
This position can be very useful if you are struggling with latch-on as it can give you more control to bring baby to the breast. Hold your baby against your body with the hand and arm opposite to the breast he is about to latch to. Your other hand will be free to shape or support the breast for the latch—see Latching Tips. It’s tempting to hold the back of your baby’s head in this position but remember not to do this and to support his neck and shoulders instead. If you lean back slightly during the latch or after baby is latched, your body can help support your baby’s weight.
Rugby, clutch or football hold
This position has many names but they all refer to your baby positioned alongside you, coming towards the breast from behind you. You may need a cushion or two behind your back to bring yourself forward to leave enough room for your baby’s body along your side. And you will probably need a pillow under your baby to lift him to breast height so that you don’t have to lean down to reach him. Check that your baby’s nose is level with your nipple before he latches. In this hold, your baby’s bottom might be snuggled into the back of the chair or sofa with his legs in the air. The rugby hold can be useful if you have had a caesarean and your incision is painful in other positions, or if you’re feeding two babies at the same time. Sometimes it just seems to work when other positions feel awkward. Some mothers choose to breastfeed cross cradle on one breast and rugby hold on the other at first, you can choose whatever works best for you. As with cross cradle you have a hand free to shape or support the breast.
In a cradle hold baby is held in the crook of the arm in a similar position to how a baby is held for bottle feeding, but baby is turned on their side snuggled against their mother and facing the breast. Ensure your baby doesn’t have to turn their head to reach the breast as it is not easy to swallow if your head is turned to the side and this would make breastfeeding challenging for them. The cradle hold may be more difficult to use initially when you and your baby are learning to breastfeed as it gives you less control for the latch. Check that your baby feels safe and supported in this position and that his legs aren’t dangling off the side of your lap. Try to curl his body around yours following all the latching tips you can. Leaning back and letting your body take your baby’s weight can help the stability of this position.
Learning to breastfeed lying down gives you an opportunity to rest and can be very comfortable if you have had an episiotomy or caesarean. It can be tricky to do; you may need to latch in a semi reclining position and then slide down to side-lying at first. Check out Bed-Sharing With Baby to make sure your sleeping surface is safe if you should fall asleep while feeding. As in all positions, have your baby snuggled in close with his nose level with your nipple just before the latch. Check that he isn’t flat on his back and expected to turn his head to latch, he won’t be comfortable or able to swallow in that position. Your arm around him will keep him on his side while he feeds.
Sometimes a baby can be upset and too anxious, frustrated or angry to latch—walking around with him in your arms will often calm him. He may even enjoy latching while you are standing up, with some gentle swaying and movement rocking him. Later, breastfeeding standing up, with the help of a sling, can let you carry on with tasks around the house without interrupting your baby’s feed. Breast and Bottle Feeding Safely in a Sling by Dr Rosie Knowles discusses how to use a sling safely.
Some babies do well in a straddle hold where they sit astride your thigh facing the breast. You may be sitting upright or in a reclining straddle hold.
If breastfeeding hurts
If you can’t get comfortable in any position, contact an IBCLC lactation consultant to help you with positioning in person. An IBCLC will watch a breastfeed and take a full history to help solve why breastfeeding might be feeling difficult or painful. They will be able to check how your baby uses his tongue or whether he seems to have any other issues such as high muscle tone. Your lactation consultant will help you find the right position for yours and your baby’s unique anatomy and circumstances.
Positioning is important. If breastfeeding hurts or pinches your nipples, not only will it be uncomfortable and cause sore nipples, but your baby will find it difficult to take the full amount of breast milk he needs because his tongue won’t be in the right position to stimulate the breast. If this happens, your milk supply may begin to drop because your breasts will not be being emptied properly. Holding your baby in a way that helps him get a deep mouthful of breast tissue as well as the nipple, while feeling safe and supported, is the key to comfortable feeds and plenty of breast milk. There are lots of different breastfeeding positions to try and many breastfeeding specialists to help you.